Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Upgraded and adapted from a comment in the Moot:
Yes, it is important to emphasize that facebook's "business model" is the same logic governing the algorithmic surveillance and extraction that now passes for "social media" and/or "the internet" across the board (since the very late 90s or so) and hence the fall of even so grand and terrible a bad actor as facebook -- which I far from expect to happen in any case, much though I would like it to -- will not put an end to the problem facebook so poignantly symptomizes and symbolizes in this moment. Platform monopolization, algorithmic targeting/profiling and disruptive deregulation of public goods defines this phase of corporate-militarism (er, capitalism), unfortunately for us all. Online search, publication, exchange, funding, organizing, expression platforms should be nationalized as indispensable public utilities and made absolutely accountable to the public (or at any rate the monopolies broken up by renewed antitrust, and non-profit public options made available to all). Implementing legible regimes to protect people from fraud, misinformation, and nonconsensual exploitation of personal information (consent is not clicking a button after scrolling through legal boilerplate you don't read and which you wouldn't understand if you read it anyway) will also be necessary -- which would require not only a radical re-orientation of digital media but of the whole suffusion of our public sphere with the deceptive and hyperbolic norms and forms of marketing (including the legal deceptions of consumer advertising, self-promotional branding norms, and the think-tankification of intellectual life).

That said, while I understand and sympathize with your efforts to remain anonymous and autonomous online (I stopped using facebook YEARS ago, for example) I would warn you not to imagine there are rugged individualist strategies to elude these structural problems -- facebook for one thing creates profiles of non-users as well as its users and profiles aggregated with and without our knowledge and understanding from public and private databases frame us all, however we seek to evade them (though taking security measures remains prudent as far as that goes of course), and only organized democratic resistance and governance can get us out of this stupid predictable (and predicted) mess. I think everybody should be reading Frank Pasquale, Zeynep Tufekci, David Golumbia, Chris Gilliard, Safiya Noble, and Audrey Watters, among many others (not including me) right now for guidance on these questions.

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